Sunday, December 30

Protection for sex trade workers

Services need to change in order for streets to be safer for sex workers

By The Canadian Press

December 30, 2007

VANCOUVER — Every week in Vancouver, a bad date sheet is put together by social service agencies and distributed to prostitutes, informing them of new beatings, rapes, kidnappings or robberies committed against people working in the Downtown Eastside.

On average, about eight incidents are reported a week.

It’s a number that doesn’t sit well with Kate Gibson, executive director of WISH, a drop-in centre for survival-sex workers, especially since she says only five to 10 per cent of bad dates are brought to their attention.

“Women don’t report them because then they have to relive them; they have to go through the whole thing again,” she said. “For some women it’s just unbearable.”

In her four years at WISH, Gibson hasn’t seen many changes made to protect sex workers against bad dates, much less the confinement of drug addiction or stigmatization by society. All these factors make it very hard for women to try to leave the sex trade.

The wave of media attention that came with the trial of serial killer Robert Pickton, who used the Downtown Eastside as a hunting ground, didn’t do much to help the neighbourhood or its residents.

Pickton was convicted Dec. 9 of murdering six women all known to sell sex on the streets, and he was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years. He faces trial on 20 more first-degree murder counts in 2008.

In order for things to start improving, Gibson said survival-sex workers, who are often addicted to drugs, need treatment on demand. If someone wants to try and kick their addiction, they shouldn’t be made to wait days or even weeks for a chance to do so.

“You’re not striking while the iron’s hot,” she said.

Gibson said the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which provides some social services, is looking to improve that with a hotline that arranges services for addicts. But it will be some time before things are in order.

A lack of supported housing for women is also a lingering problem. Social workers say that in order to have stability, a person needs a safe space to live.

B.C. Community Services Minister Ida Chong wasn’t available for an interview but officials outlined funding for programs aimed at sex-trade workers.

“The Ministry of Community Services alone spends over $4.2 million in Vancouver on transition houses, second stage housing, stopping the violence counselling, children who witness abuse counselling and outreach and multicultural outreach services — to connect women with the health, housing and income supports available that will make a real difference in their lives,” Anne McKinnon, communications director with the ministry, said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.

But most of the existing housing that the government has bought to refurbish as new social housing is already filled with tenants.

Gibson said that still leaves thousands of people without safe, supported housing. “And I’m not sure that’s in the plans right now,” she said.

Advocates say a safe work environment is also essential in order to help stop women from going missing or being attacked.

Jody Paterson worked as executive director at the Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resource Society, or PEERS, in Victoria. She’s now in the process of trying to open a co-op brothel run and used by sex-trade workers.

A similar effort is being made in Vancouver.

Women who work outside on the street are the most marginalized, so addicted to drugs their gut instinct fails to kick in when choosing a date, she said. Once that instinct is gone, women will often find themselves in dangerous situations.

“It’s the perfect environment for a killer,” she said.

Paterson wants to open the facility as an escort agency, which is legal. But she said ultimately the Criminal Code would have to change in order for prostitution to be a less-shrouded industry.
“That is a long, long battle, especially with the current government,” she said.

Some who work closely with survival sex-trade workers say their biggest challenge — an almost impossible one — is changing the way people see women who sell sex to survive.

“Pimp and ho” theme parties and even video games such as Grand Theft Auto trivialize the gruelling reality that sex-trade workers must live with every day.

“It’s dangerous and exploitive for women and people make light (of sex trade workers) and consider it a form of entertainment and it’s not,” Gibson said. “People need to understand what this really means and what they’re talking about ... it’s not funny.

“That’s why people face violence every day, it’s the attitude of people towards them.”

While Gibson’s job is often stressful and depressing, she has seen some improvements over the years.

The biggest positive change is the relationship between sex trade workers and the police, which in the past lacked trust.

But she has to keep up hope to keep working.

“You need to believe in the women and their strengths and their tenacity to manage to get through their day, every day,” she said. “You really need to believe in them. And you need to allow everyone respect and dignity.”

It’s that respect and dignity that helped CeeJai Julian get off the streets. She started at the age of 12 and continued working for 22 years, all the while hooked on cocaine and heroin.

She decided to change her life after a violent date that left her in bad physical and mental state. She went to Prostitution Awareness Counselling and Education, or PACE, for help.

Julian now works as a support worker at PEERS in Vancouver. She says social services such as PACE, PEERS and the detox centre she frequented were what helped make it possible to kick her addiction and start over.

“The guy at the detox and even the doctors didn’t give up on me,” she said. “They really wanted to help me.

“Knowing that they care and they don’t want to see me die, that really lured me in. I needed to be with people that would love me, not hurt me or give up on me.

“Leaving the street and that lifestyle for so long, and then having people be kind to me, I would start crying because it was so overwhelming.”

The Canadian Press
PEERS Vancouver

Jury duty: Emotions on trial

From grisly evidence to complex instructions, our legal obligation takes a toll on those who must pass judgment

Jamie Hall
The Edmonton Journal

Sunday, December 30, 2007

EDMONTON - For months afterward, Barb Dacks held her breath when she opened her morning newspaper, her eyes darting fearfully over the headlines.

"I was so afraid I was going to read that this person had killed his wife," Dacks remembers.

For Melle Huizinga, his stomach was constantly in knots, and it took almost a year for his violent nightmares to subside.

"I would have dreams about meeting up with this guy, and I would wake up in a sweat."
The two don't know each other, but they share a common experience: both were jurors at criminal trials, one involving domestic violence, the other sexual assault.

Both also prove out a University of Alberta professor's study that concludes bearing witness to the often violent world of criminal justice, then rendering judgment on a person's innocence or guilt, is highly stressful.

"Evidence suggests that jurors who serve on long trials, especially when it involves violent crime with graphic evidence and disturbing testimony, find it particularly stressful, which isn't all that surprising," says law professor Sanjeev Anand.

One of Canada's most horrific trials in recent memory involved accused serial killer Robert Pickton, a Coquitlam pig farmer who is charged with killing 26 women in Vancouver. In his first trial, the jury sat for almost a year, hearing grisly testimony including submissions about women's head, hands and feet found on his farm.

But Anand says trauma doesn't only stem from what jury members hear and see.

The trial process itself, he says, is equally as stressful. Seven of the top 10 stressors reported by jurors involve decision-making and deliberations.

In addition, he found that -- while the majority of jurors take their civic duty seriously and are keen to be fair arbiters of justice -- the time in doing so becomes onerous.

Time away from work and home. Time listening to testimony, which can be by turns complex and horrific. Time in cramped anterooms while lawyers argue points of law out of their earshot. Time listening to the judge's charge before deliberations can begin.

"It's not unheard of for jurors to sit for four or five hours and listen to the judge's instructions to the jury," says Anand.

"At least now they're allowed to take notes; 20 years ago they had to figure out how to retain it."

Deliberations carry their own stressful burden, lasting hours or even days, and sometimes involve being sequestered in hotels.

Unlike the U.S., where juries are often interviewed at length about what went on in the jury room, it is a criminal code offence in Canada for juries to talk about deliberations. To anyone. Ever.

Anand calls the secrecy rule antiquated and says even the Supreme Court of Canada has alluded to it as "draconian" in nature.

"I think the law needs to be repealed, quite frankly," he says. "We should know what jurors are thinking; it's only in this way we can make the trial process better."

Anand believes there a handful of minor changes that could make a juror's job easier, and make them feel more valued, without compromising the law.

For example, jurors could be given a written copy of the judge's instructions, rather than force them to take notes that they can refer to later.

Jurors could be given a choice about when they can appear to serve on a jury, and trial timelines could be worked to ensure jurors are inconvenienced as little as possible and can avoid unnecessary hours waiting in the courthouse.

Juries should be excused before sundown and be escorted to their vehicles by court staff to alleviate concerns about running into the accused, or the family of the accused, outside of court, Anand says.

The amount of graphic evidence shown to jurors should be limited; "You don't have to see 50 (grisly) photos of the same thing," he says.

And, jurors should be clearly informed that they have the right to ask their own questions during the trial. "Most lawyers don't even realize jurors have that right, but they do," Anand adds.

Dacks had no idea she could ask questions during the trial. If she had, she would have asked the accused, an estranged husband charged with assaulting his ex-wife, about why he had a restraining order.

"I asked after we started deliberating and I was told it was too late," Dacks recalls. "I had no idea we could ask questions during the trial."

Huizinga still remembers the endless frustration he and other jurors felt when they were excluded from crucial parts of the trial, as lawyers huddled with a judge over admissibility of some of the evidence.

"We wanted to know what they were talking about. They give us the responsibility (for the verdict) but you feel you don't have all the information you need to make the decision," he says.
In the end, he says, sitting on a jury is not an experience he cares to repeat.

"I still feel stress, anger, frustration about how the whole system works. I have done my civic duty, and I am not about to do it again."
- - -
TOP 10 STRESSES REPORTED BY JURORS: 1. Being in a minority position during deliberations. 2. Ban on discussing the case with family and friends. 3. Sequestration during deliberations. 4. Grisly or disturbing evidence. 5. Fear of making a mistake. 6. Dissension or differences among jury members. 7. Nature and characteristics of the crime. 8. Deliberations and discussions. 9. A hung jury. 10. Deciding on a verdict.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

Saturday, December 29

Missing Sister

Libba Phillips founded Outpost for Hope when her troubled sister ran away from home.

By Linda Childers
December 2007

Libba Phillips stood on the sidewalk of one of Tampa’s seediest streets and watched a young woman in a red miniskirt saunter toward a car. She had the same mane of auburn hair as Libba’s missing sister, Ashley.
As the young woman leaned into the open window of the old Chevy to talk to the driver, Libba moved closer and touched her shoulder.
The woman spun around. She had the face of a total stranger. “I’m sorry,” Libba said, backing away. “I thought you were someone else.” She reached into her backpack and pulled out a flyer with a color photo of her sister, lost now for two years.
Like so many of the women on the street, Ashley had suffered abuse as a child. By the time she was 15, she’d become rebellious, depressed and addicted to alcohol and crack. For years, she was in and out of counseling, and, one March day in 1998, she left a rehab center and simply vanished. The family contacted the police and tried to file a missing persons report. But Ashley, 23, was an adult, and there were no signs of foul play. Considering her history of mental illness and drug abuse, the police felt she’d disappeared of her own accord.
“I’m sure she’ll show up soon,” the officer said. “She’s probably just passed out at a friend’s house.” Hearing that, Libba began her relentless search on the streets.
Missing people with mental illness and substance abuse problems are often ignored by law enforcement, and Libba was sure other families were living through losses like hers. Three years after her sister disappeared, she left a good job in pharmaceutical sales to launch Outpost for Hope, a nonprofit organization from which she takes no pay. Its website,, helps families searching for missing loved ones. It outlines a recovery plan and describes psychiatric resources for people who have been found.
A phone call from Gwyn Robson of Maryland is typical. “Can you help me find my daughter, Marie?” Gwyn asks Libba. It’s 2003, and she shares Marie’s heartbreaking story before bursting into tears. “Outpost for Hope made flyers, provided volunteers to post them, contacted the media,” Gwyn says. “And they gave me the emotional support I desperately needed.” Almost five months after her disappearance, Marie returned home, thanks to the organization’s publicity.
On February 7, 2003—nearly five years had gone by with no word of Ashley—Libba got good news. A friend of Ashley’s had seen one of the posters and urged her to call home. Libba flew to North Carolina to find her sister emaciated, beaten and with little memory of the time she’d been lost. Today Libba Phillips and Outpost for Hope have helped some 50 families find their lost loved ones and start them on the road to recovery.
Libba helped train law enforcement and mental health professionals at last fall’s national Crisis Intervention Team conference. Every time she talks to a group, her mind flashes back to Tampa and the faces of the women on the street. Then she thinks of Ashley—safe again at home.

Last Updated: 2007-10-23
© 2007 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc

Outpost For Hope
From coldcases group

Hope ya'll at ColdCase will consider voting for Outpost for Hope in the Reader's Digest Magazine Poll. Libba Phillips and Outpost For Hope were featured on the last issue of the Reader's Digest Every Day Heroes column. There's a chance to get the message to be displayed on the front of the Every Day Heroes page for all of 2008!

Please go to , scroll down the page and vote for "The Searcher". The voting is easy, free and instant.

The more people become aware of the problem of Unreported Missing children and adults the better. I think we have enough folks here to really make a dent in the vote results! I'd like to see them run more stories involving the missing and unidentified.

& Outpost For Hope Team.
- Todd Matthews

Tuesday, December 25

In Memory of Jack Cummer

Jack and Laila Cummer
Jack Cummer passed away suddenly on
December 3, 2007 at Nanaimo General Hospital
Knock on door raises fear
Grandparents Jack and Laila Cummer have created a music CD in memory of their missing granddaughter Andrea Joesbury.

The passing of Jack Cummer

It is with great sadness that I inform you that my loving husband Jack Cummer passed away suddenly on December 23, 2007 at the Nanaimo General Hospital.
Please do not reply to this notice as I cannot answer your e-mails. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

Laila Cummer

Monday, December 24

Trail cold on Nanaimo's own missing women

RCMP say every lead now exhausted

Paul Walton
CanWest News Service
December 24, 2007

The mother and grandmother of two young Nanaimo women whose deaths remain unsolved are still waiting for that one piece of evidence that will end their anguish.

Laura Lee "Raven" Banman, 23, was reported missing in August 1999, and her skeletal remains were found on a logging road outside Campbell River in May 2000. While police will not release details, they say an autopsy revealed that Banman met with foul play.

Lisa Marie Young, 21, disappeared on the Canada Day long weekend in 2002. Within weeks, police determined that she had met with foul play, but have yet to gather enough evidence to charge anyone.

"It's not acceptable, it's pure murder," said Evelyn Sarsfield, Banman's grandmother, from her home near Grande Prairie, Alta. "Whoever did it deserves to be in jail like [Robert] Pickton."

Sgt. Dwight Dammann, who has investigated the Banman case since May 2000 but is planning to retire from the RCMP in six months, said they have now exhausted every lead and tip, interviewed anyone connected with her and even put up a sign near where the body was found on Highway 19, asking motorists to report any suspicious activity in that area leading up to May 2000.

Nothing. Serious crimes investigators from Nanaimo sought leads on the streets. Even the missing women's task force looked at Banman's file and could draw no conclusions.

"It's been reviewed by different sections. There's not a heck of a lot we can do with the information we have right now," said Dammann.

Sarsfield, now 68, raised Banman for eight years.

"How much longer have I got to wait to see someone brought to justice?" she asked. "If I had the money -- and I don't -- I'd put up a reward. I'll more likely die not knowing what happened to Laura."

She said Banman was drawn into drugs at a young age in the Grand Prairie area and from there, into the sex trade. Within a short time she was headed west to Vancouver and Nanaimo.
"She just followed the trail," said Sarsfield.

Lisa Marie Young was not a drug user nor in the sex trade. She was last seen at a Nanaimo nightclub. Joanne Young, her mother, said people have been forgetting after 61/2 years.
"It's been really difficult in the last while," said Young.

In both cases, someone other than the killer knows what happened and police want the people who know to do the right thing and call them.

"I believe they need to step out of the darkness and say what they need to say for our family to put Lisa to rest," said Young.

Sarsfield is concerned that her granddaughter may not be the only victim. "How many others are there?" she wondered.

Dammann said he will likely retire in six months, but the case will go to someone else.
"We never close a murder file," he said.

Young said that in the new year, she intends to start a new campaign to seek information.

"I don't want anyone to ever forget about my daughter." -- Daily News

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Sunday, December 23

Forever in our hearts

Faces of Hope

Two Rivers Gallery display further explores themes from Missing Women exhibit

Saturday, 15 December 2007

A local artist's exhibit at Two Rivers Gallery honouring the 50 missing and murdered women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has inspired another exhibit called the Faces of Hope.

Faces of Hope is a collection of self-portraits of women of all ages, who participated in 10 workshops held throughout November in connection with Betty Kovacic's A Roomful of Missing Women exhibit.

The self-portraits of more than 80 women now grace the lobby of the gallery.

Carolyn Holmes, public programs manager at the gallery, said she invited several community organizations, such as women's groups, youth and youth-at-risk groups to take part in the workshops. Other groups, including a school, came forward on their own.

During each two hour event, a group of six to 12 women met briefly with Holmes to talk about Kovacic's vision for the exhibit. The group then toured the gallery, then came together again to talk about the issues surrounding the emotionally-charged exhibit.

"A few of the women had a connection with the exhibit -- had a relative or friend in the room of missing women," said Holmes. "You kind of think it's far removed, but one little thing happens in your life and you could end up on a different path."

Kovacic's exhibit, which was held at the gallery from Sept. 26 to Nov. 25, consisted of 50 portraits and was accompanied by sound, music and a collection of shrouded blow-up dolls.

Part of the workshop was to finish the sentence "as a child I dreamed of being..."
The phrase was printed on sashes and placed on every shrouded figure in the exhibit. The missing women could not realize their dreams, but those participating in the workshop still can, said Holmes. Many of the dreams the workshoppers had were reflected in the dreams the missing women had. Some wanted to be rock stars, ballerinas, doctors, lawyers and models -- typical girl stuff, Holmes said.

After that exercise, the participants were asked to paint their portrait. Some were hesitant, said Holmes, so as a warm up, they were first asked what colour best reflected their essence or personality. Then the ladies were asked to paint the music they were listening to, in order to allow them to understand that anything they painted was OK. They were soon ready to do their portraits with great results, said Holmes.

The Faces of Hope will be on display until mid-December.

The Two Rivers Gallery is open seven days a week. Thursdays are free to the public from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Studying the mystery

Kerry Benjoe
The Leader-Post

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Luther College professor wants to know why brown-skinned women go missing more frequently in colonized countries.

"I was teaching a feminist theory class last winter and I showed my students a film called Senorita Extraviada. It's about missing women in Juarez, Mexico," said Brenda Anderson, who teaches women's studies at the University of Regina. "These good students, they said, 'What do we do about this?' Out of that class actually there's a conference being organized by students and myself."

The conference acted as a catalyst and interest grew so Anderson developed two classes. The first, entitled Missing Indigenous Women, is to be offered this winter. The second course is in May, when 27 or 28 students will participate in an eight-day trip to Mexico City to visit the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Transformation House. Anderson said she has received funding to take the students to Mexico and space for that class is limited.

The winter class is a 300-level women's studies course and is being cross-listed as a human justice, pre-police studies and international studies class. Anderson said there's also interest provincially and hopes the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN), which broadcasts classes for distance learning, will be able to televise the class.

"It's not my specific area of expertise but I'm going to be relying on other professors that work on Mexico, Australia or Guatemala. They are going to talk about the context and the history.
Together I think we will be able to make some interesting observations," said Anderson.

The class will also have family members of missing women share their stories as well as others who have been working in the area of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Anderson is hopeful the momentum will continue especially among the students who have become very active in the issue. The student union has committed $4,000 to the conference so students can attend and bring in elders for the event. Anderson believes people in the province are finally ready to deal with the problem, which is evident in the amount of interest the conference and classes have garnered.

The conference, called Missing Women: Decolonization, Third Wave Feminism and Indigenous People of Canada and Mexico. is set for August.

"We're going to be able to look at Canada and Mexico in the conference in August. We get to look at Mexico specifically in the spring and then we can look at it globally in the course in the winter," explained Anderson.

Holly McKenzie, a fourth-year U of R student, was one of those students who felt compelled to act and it has become an issue about which she's passionate.

"Societally we all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is protected and everyone is safe," she said. "That's where we were all coming from, that we need to stand in solidarity with indigenous community members."

She hopes the conference will help to raise awareness and bring the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Saskatchewan and work towards ending that violence. McKenzie said she first became aware of the issue soon after starting university and believes all people need to know that this is not just an indigenous problem.

"There's a history of colonization. There is a history of neo-colonial policies and there's a history of societal disregard for violence against indigenous women," she said. "This is constructing a society where (indigenous women) are targets of violence and that's not fair."

For more information on the August conference, contact Anderson at

A Saskatchewan database of all missing persons is available at the Saskatchewan Chiefs of Police Web site (

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Woman's family after closure

Victim's mom wants remains back for memorial
Ethan Baron
The Province
Sunday, December 23, 2007

So twisted is the Robert "Willie" Pickton murder case that Daphne Pierre has resorted to comparing serial killers in hopes she can one day bury her sister.

Police have told Pierre that DNA from her sister Jackie Murdock turned up at Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm. Investigators will not reveal what they found relating to Murdock, who is on the list of 65 missing and murdered women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Pickton, convicted of six murders, faces 20 more murder counts, but Murdock is not among them.

A number of families of missing women have been told their relative's DNA was found at the farm, but was not sufficient for a murder charge.

Pierre said she and her mother wish to hold a funeral for Murdock, but they don't know if her remains have been found.

Now Pierre is hoping that whoever killed her sister will share a tendency she learned about in a TV documentary about infamous U.S. serial-killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who kept some of his victims' remains relatively intact for a period of time.

"That would be a good thing, if her whole body was whole," Pierre said.

Her mother doesn't want to have so much as a memorial until the family has Murdock's remains, Pierre said.

Meanwhile, a Lower Mainland truck driver said he was shocked to learn that his former girlfriend's DNA was found at the Pickton farm.

Miles Novak said he and Murdock lived together in Langley in the mid-'80s.

"She was a sweetheart, a real nice gal, always laughing," Novak said. "She didn't have a bad word to say about anybody."

After moving out, Murdock got back in touch with Novak in the mid-'90s, and visited him in Maple Ridge. She told him she had to testify in a criminal case after witnessing an event at a hotel, and said she might have to go into a witness-protection program, he said.

Murdock had five children. Two live with her mother in Prince George, and three are in foster care, Pierre said.

Murdock left Prince George in 1996. When she didn't contact her mother, Pierre began looking for her in the Downtown Eastside, and found her in November 1996. In tears, Murdock said she didn't want to go home to Prince George because a family member had sexually abused her there, Pierre said.

A month later, Pierre received a phone call from her sister, who was using a man's cellphone while in Surrey.

Pierre was living in Surrey, but when she invited Murdock to visit, she heard the man, who owned the phone, say , "Oh, no, we don't have time."

"I wonder who this guy is," Pierre said. "Was it Willie Pickton?"

Police aren't releasing information about Murdock, other than confirming her DNA was found in connection with the missing-women investigation, said RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

Saturday, December 22

Families honour missing women

Jana G. Pruden

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Saskatchewan Sisters in Spirit held a gathering Friday evening for family members of missing or murdered women. Prayers, a meal and conversation made up part of the evening. Gwenda Yuzicappi, the mother of Amber Redman, was among those on hand.Photograph by : Bryan Schlosser, Leader-Post.
Two years after the remains of Melanie Dawn Geddes were found in a field outside Regina, her family -- and the families of several other missing and murdered Saskatchewan women -- gathered to pay tribute to the 24-year-old mother, sister, daughter and friend.

"We really feel it's important to honour her memory and her life," said Gwenda Yuzicappi, one of the organizers of Friday night's event, and herself the mother of a missing woman.

Yuzicappi's daughter, Amber Redman, disappeared from outside a Fort Qu'Appelle bar on July 15, 2005.

Geddes disappeared less than a month later, on Aug. 13, 2005. Geddes vanished on her way home from a party on the 900 block of Robinson Street. Her remains were found on Dec. 20, 2005, in the Qu'Appelle Valley near Southey. No one has been charged in her murder.

On Friday evening, Geddes' family, friends, and her three daughters were among those that came together for a meal and prayers, along with both laughter and tears.

Melanie's older sister, Michelle, said it was a difficult night.

"It's sad for me to come here," she said. "It's hard on our entire family."

Michelle said she tries to remember the good times, and smiles as she recalls Melanie as a happy woman who loved her kids. Michelle's smile fades when she thinks that her sister's killer hasn't been identified.

"I just wish they'd find out who did that to her," she said.

It's that kind of terrible uncertainty that the brother of another missing Saskatchewan woman once described as "living in a place called the unknown."
Lori Whiteman, whose mother disappeared in the early 1980s and has never been located, knows the feeling well.

"The place called the unknown is a very difficult place to be," she said, while putting on another pot of coffee for the dozens of people at Friday's event. "You need to rely on police and depend on our own faith and your own beliefs."

Yuzicappi said it's important for the public, police, and legislators to remember the missing and murdered women, and for people to gain strength from each other.

"It's really sad to say that there's more and more families experiencing this issue," she said. "We can just help each other by being together, by giving each other a hug, by giving each other support."

City police cold case officer Const. Brent Shannon, who attended Friday's gathering, said police and RCMP continue to work on solving cases like Geddes'.

"Those cases are not forgotten about," he said. "And they never will be forgotten about."

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007
Families bond in search for relatives
Native Women's Association of Canada

Friday, December 21

After the Pickton trial: what lives on

By Amber Dean

December 20, 2007

"We inherit not 'what really happened' to the dead but what lives on from that happening, what is conjured from it, how past generations and events occupy the force fields of the present, how they claim us, and how they haunt, plague, and inspirit our imaginations and visions for the future." -Wendy Brown, Politics Out of History

After several years spent researching the events surrounding the disappearances and deaths of so many women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, there is only one thing I know for sure: that knowing "what really happened" to those women does little to help us struggle with the stunning complexity of "what lives on from that happening."

This is the thought that kept running through my head last January, as I sat in shocked silence in the overflow courtroom in New Westminster, B.C. on the first day of Robert William Pickton's trial for the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, and Georgina Papin.

I thought I was prepared that day for what I was about to hear, as I was no stranger to the circumstances surrounding the trial. But as I listened to Crown council describe, in the cold, matter-of-fact language of legal-eze, "what really happened" to those six women, I knew that I was not prepared, not at all. And I wondered how knowing this information could make any difference to the injustices the women experienced, injustices which continue to shape the present.

Now that the trial is over and this lone individual has been convicted and sent to prison for the rest of his life, there is a sense that we can "move on," that with the verdict comes "closure." I am in awe of the family members who stuck through this trial, and am grateful that the verdict has given some of them a sense of relief. I also know that some media commentators made an effort to point out that little has changed for women in the Downtown Eastside in the years since Pickton's arrest. A spattering of stories along these lines appeared in the day or two after the verdict and sentencing. They've all but disappeared now, though, which is unfortunate, since what lives on from the deaths of so many women has everything to do with the ongoing injustices evident in this neighbourhood.

Family members of the disappeared women, Downtown Eastside activists, and some politicians and journalists have called for increased funding and support for women in the Downtown Eastside, increased protections for women doing sex work, and an investigation into how the police (mis)handled reports of women going missing from the neighbourhood. All of these are extremely important. But what I think most of us have yet to consider are the social dimensions of the suffering and loss that has taken place. In other words, how are we all implicated in the disappearances and deaths of so many women, even if we live hundreds of miles away and had no prior relationship with them? How are these events both written and sustained by the arrangements of our social world?

Let me give you an example. There has been a noticeable shift in mainstream media representations of the women who were disappeared. Early descriptions emphasized how the women were "prostitutes" and "drug-addicts," while recent descriptions tend to focus more on the women's roles as mothers, sisters, and daughters. This shift has come about mainly through the determination of the women's family members, who refused to let the world know their loved ones only through such narrow descriptions of how they lived their lives. But why did we need to know that the women were also mothers, sisters, and daughters in order to care about their fate? Does this imply that, generally speaking, many of us don't consider people labelled "prostitutes" and "drug-addicts" to be worthy of our concern? What might this shift then tell us about the assumptions that underpin our social world and our everyday interactions with others?

The mainstream media has also paid little attention to the fact that the women who were disappeared from the Downtown Eastside were disproportionately Indigenous. This fact makes me wonder how European colonization and settlement of the land now known as Canada is related to this present-day violence.

Of course, it's often said that the past is, well, past – that what happened in the past is over, finished, done, relevant to the present only in the form of a history lesson. According to that logic, colonization is a completed project. It is something we might lament, or decry, but it's seldom thought to be ongoing in the present. And yet Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is often talked about today using the language and metaphors of the Frontier; it is repeatedly described as a kind of "Wild West" zone.

These descriptions invite us to imagine the Downtown Eastside as a bordered space that is ripe for conquest and resettlement. This happens not only through media representations, but also through plans to "clean up" and "bring order" to the neighbourhood, and through efforts to gentrify it (which are all happening right now at an alarming pace in advance of the 2010 Olympics). So, I wonder: what is the relationship between these descriptions that invite a new "conquest" of the land and the terrible violence that has been inflicted disproportionately on Indigenous women from this neighbourhood?

A lot of emphasis has been put on getting us to think about "what really happened" to the women who were murdered. Learning the Crown's version of what really happened to the women at the opening of the trial, and learning it again and again in countless media re-presentations of those facts, has done nothing to help me confront the staggering realities of these events. In fact, those sensational details might distract us from the more difficult but perhaps more important task of thinking about what lives on from that happening.

Despite the conclusion of Pickton's first trial, I'm far from certain that we now know (or can ever know) all of "what really happened" to allow so many women to disappear for such a long stretch of time.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to find out. But perhaps now that the trial is over we might shift our attention to what lives on, in the interests of a present (and future) that might be otherwise.

Amber Dean is a PhD Candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She recently co-edited a special issue of West Coast Line on representations of murdered and missing women with Vancouver writer Anne Stone.

Wednesday, December 19

Pickton farm yields another missing woman's DNA

Lori Culbert
CanWest News Service

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

VANCOUVER - A B.C. woman has announced her sister's DNA was found on Robert (Willie) Pickton's farm - bringing the tally to 30 women on the official police list of 65 missing women to be linked to the Pickton investigation through DNA testing.
Daphne Pierre said she was told by police her sister Jackie Murdock's DNA was found on the farm, but was asked not to tell anyone until Pickton's trial ended.
Pickton was convicted earlier this month on six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years.
"They told me that they had found her DNA at the (Pickton) pig farm. It made me feel really sad, and I thought I had cried enough," said the Surrey, B.C., woman.
The Missing Women Task Force confirmed Wednesday that Murdock's DNA was located, but Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary would say nothing further because Pickton still faces a second trial on 20 more murder charges.
Clary said it will ultimately be up to Crown prosecutors to decide whether to charge Pickton with any new murder counts before his second trial begins.
DNA from the six women he was convicted of killing, the 20 women at the centre of his second trial, and four more women - including Murdock - for whom charges have not been laid has all been found on the farm.
In addition, the tally of possible victims also includes four more women who police have been unable to identify yet. The remains include a rib and heel bone of a victim dubbed "Jane Doe" that were found buried on Pickton's farm.
Pierre said the last time she saw her sister was in November 1996 in the Downtown Eastside. She was 25 at the time.
"She was so happy to see me. She started crying and said, 'I don't want to go back out there,'" Pierre said.
Pierre reported her youngest sister - and mother of five - missing in 1997. She said she heard nothing further about Murdock until members of the Missing Women Task Force visited her in 2004.
Pierre said police would not tell her what exactly they found bearing her sister's DNA.
"They wouldn't even tell my mom . . . because of the next trial," Pierre said. "She wanted to have a memorial service."
Pierre said she is hopeful there will be a criminal charge laid in connection with her sister's case.
"I wouldn't mind (Pickton) going to trial for that too, but that doesn't give me any answers regarding my sister - or to bring her home," said Pierre.
Murdock was the youngest daughter in a large First Nations family from Fort St. James, B.C.
"When she was younger, when she was a little girl, we used to put lots of ponytails in her hair. She used to be really cute, very chubby. She was a very intelligent little girl," Pierre recalled.
Things deteriorated when Murdock got older, however, and she was eventually seized from her parents and put into foster care. After a series of runaway attempts, she ended up on the Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver Sun© CanWest News Service 2007
The Pickton Case: Vancouver Sun
Missing Lives
Families brace for hearing
Vancouver missing women

Tuesday, December 18

'Bad dates' scourge of sex trade addiction, poverty its hallmarks

Jack Knox
Times Colonist

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here, says Alicia Koorn, is what happened to Victoria prostitutes in the week Willie Pickton was convicted: One was locked in a room for seven hours, sexually assaulted and beaten. Another was attacked in a car. A third was taken to a park, beaten and raped.

So you can understand it if the cheering from the street was somewhat muted when the Robert Pickton trial concluded. One monster might have been put away for life, but plenty of others are still out there preying on the poor, forgotten women whose afflictions drive them to sell sex for money.

About 100 such women work Victoria's outdoor prostitution stroll, maybe 70 of them regularly. Almost every single one of them is an addict. Many are mentally ill, suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, or have disabilities that have left them drowning in poverty. One has the mental capacity of a four-year-old; who would buy sex from someone who is, at heart, a little girl?

If the prostitutes were downtown on Government Street, like in the old days, there would be plenty of public hand-wringing -- though less about the risks the women face than the nuisance they create, exposing Victoria's seamy underbelly, right there in the open. But since they keep to a quasi-industrial area that is all but lifeless at night, they are invisible and therefore vulnerable. Koorn, an outreach worker with the Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resource Society, says "bad dates," as they are known, occur every night or two.

Koorn was among 30 protesters, all but three of them women, who marched through downtown to the legislature yesterday, trying to drag the issue out of the shadows and into the light. The protest was part of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. It began as a memorial to the victims of Washington state's Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, who four years ago today was handed 48 life sentences for murdering 48 women in the early 1980s. His victims included prostitutes, drug users, runaways -- "trash," he called them.

The thing is, focusing on people like Ridgway and Pickton -- freaks at the extreme end of the violence scale, just as Marc Lépine, who murdered 14 women in a 1989 shooting spree at Montreal's école Polytechnique, was a freak who represented the far end of misogyny -- ignores a scarier reality: the frightening number of people whose crimes might not be as headline-grabbing, but are far more pervasive. And they get away with it because their victims feel they have nowhere to go, that society believes them to be disposable. "You get more time for vandalizing a building than you do for assaulting a sex-trade worker," says Koorn.

I've never liked that term, always thought that if "hooker" is derogatory and dehumanizing, then "sex-trade worker" connotes a bland legitimacy, cleansing prostitution of its inescapable baggage, including the risk of violence. It is an essentially exploitive, predatory practice that has more to do with power than sex. Yet my friend Jody Paterson, who recently stepped down as executive director of PEERS, will argue that moralizing like mine, because it pushes prostitution into the shadows, actually makes it riskier still. Maybe she's right. Over the years I have found that when Jody and I disagree on something, I usually come around to her way of thinking eventually.

One thing seems clear: We would be better off spending less time judging the street prostitutes and more time attacking the factors -- addiction, illness, poverty -- that put them there. And we should pay way more attention to their customers.

Who are these guys, anyway? Moral issues aside, it's not as though there aren't alternatives for buying sex; why would someone take on the risks associated with the outdoor stroll instead of the relative safety of an escort service? Some men, we are told, are "drug dates" who choose the streets because the women are addicts who can find them dealers. Others, who knows? What kind of man would go trolling for sex while -- and this has happened -- his baby slept in a car seat? Who would attack someone for kicks?

Even if they feel invisible, we have a pretty good picture of the victims. Now let's focus on the monsters.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Bad Date, The Lost Girls of Vancouver's Low Track

Monday, December 17

Vigil goes tonight for sex victims

(News) Monday, 17 December 2007, 03:00 PST
FRANK PEEBLES Citizen staff

A vigil will be held tonight to mark the women and children abused by the sex industry. Survival sex is the desperate last resort of many in our community, and violence is often the price they pay on top of the shame and humiliation and fear.

For the third consecutive year the Prince George New Hope Society is holding a vigil by candlelight - the epitome of fragile beauty - to remind the public that these women and children are risking their very lives just to do a job none of them wants to do.

"Come join us in remembering the women and girls we have lost and to support those who still face violence every day," said New Hope executive director Christal Capostinsky. "So many women face violence on our streets every day. This year we are dedicating the event in honour and memory of Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson and Brenda Wolfe."

These six were the victims of violence and murder that Robert Pickton was recently sent to jail for. He inflicted other pains and mental terror on them before they died, and he committed these atrocities over a span of years. The most terrible part of all, advocates say, is that Pickton is one of many men in many B.C. communities doing exactly the same things.

In a recent survey by New Hope surveying sex trade workers from northern B.C., the women were asked if they felt safe while involved in sex work - "felt" being a charged word deliberately chosen.

"Not everyone feels afraid when they are working," Capostinsky said, differentiating from being literally unsafe. "When some women and girls are exposed to sex work at a young age, it becomes normalized."

Yet peril is what the girls describe as a daily possibility for them whenever a stranger stops to exploit their vulnerability. Eighty-eight per cent said they had had a bad date (involving violence, humiliation or clear danger of it), the majority had had at least three bad dates and 20 per cent said they had had six or more bad dates.

"These numbers are alarming," Capostinsky said. "Furthermore, these women and girls continue to work on the streets."

"None of the girls deserve to have bad dates, it just happens," said one of those sex trade workers surveyed in the New Hope study.

The vigil coincides with International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The public is invited to participate at the New Hope drop-in centre (1046 4th Avenue) at 6:30 p.m.

©Copyright 2007 Prince George Citizen

'Fighting to see justice done'

Organization advocates end to violence against sex workers

Toronto Sun
December 17, 2007

Winnie Cornish still gets understandably emotional about the unsolved murder of her daughter, Darlene MacNeill, a decade ago.

MacNeill was a crack addict and a sex worker whose partially naked body was found floating in Lake Ontario near the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club in the fall of 1997. She had been strangled.

That there are up to 11 unsolved murders of sex workers in the city since 1991, according to figures provided by the Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto, is completely unacceptable for Cornish and others like her. She feels it indicates there is an apathy among police and society that allows violence against sex workers not to be taken seriously.

"I think just as much attention should be paid to my daughter's death as anybody else's, even a judge's daughter or a policeman's daughter. We are all human beings. We're all mothers and sisters and daughters and granddaughters," an emotional Cornish, 65, told the Sun by phone from her home in Victoria, B.C.

"I just wish that there was some magic thing that we could do to make people wake up, and make them realize (violence against sex workers) is wrong and what (the police) are doing is not enough."

Today marks the fifth annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a movement that began in Seattle for the victims of the Green River Killer, who killed 48 women, mostly sex workers and runaways, beginning in 1982.

Organizers of Toronto's vigil, who say the movement now honours all missing and murdered sex workers and advocates an end to violence against sex workers, changed tonight's vigil to Thursday night at 8 p.m. in Allan Gardens at Sherbourne and Carlton Sts. because of the weather.

"The working girls would still come out (today), because they work in all types of weather," said Anastasia Kuzyk of the Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto. "But we don't want to put people at risk."

Whenever it's held, Cornish thinks the vigil is important because it helps people struggling to cope with the unthinkable acts that have struck families like hers all across the country. Also, she said, it's important to raise awareness about what happens to sex workers.

She hopes this year's memorial will mean more to the general public because of the Robert Pickton trial and his recent conviction on six second-degree murder charges. He still faces charges in the killings of another 20 women.

Between 1991 and 2004, 171 female sex workers were murdered in Canada. And according to some statistics, street-level sex workers are 60 to 112 times more likely to be victims of fatal violence than non-sex workers. Sex workers have the highest rate of murder by occupation in Canada.

According to Kuzyk, a semi-retired sex worker who has been championing the rights of prostitutes for years, there is a stigma of sex workers in society that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to change the way violence against sex workers is handled.

"Sex work is a job, and violence isn't in the job description," she said, noting that is the slogan for this year's vigils being held in major cities around the world today.

"We're fighting to see that justice is done to honour those who have lost their lives because of their high-risk lifestyles, which to me is just another label society puts on people to blame them for what has happened to them."

Since 1991, Kuzyk said there are 11 missing or murdered Toronto sex workers whose deaths or disappearances have never been solved.

They include: Julieanne Middleton, 23, Virginia Coote, 33, Darlene MacNeill, 35, Lisa Lyn Anstey, 21, Donna Oglive, 24, Cassandra "Tula" Do, 39, Anne Fernando, 50, Lien "May-Ling" Phem, 39, Florence Harrison, Teresa May and Lori Pinkus.

"Just think, if we had 11 murdered convenience store workers, do you think we would be having this conversation right now?" she said. "Police departments, as a whole, share in the culpability because of the apathy and the ineffectiveness of investigating and finding whose responsible for crimes committed against sex workers."

As for what needs to be done to improve the working conditions of sex workers, Kuzyk said it's more than just decriminalizing the industry, a move her organization supports.

"Realistically, there has to be more than just decriminalizing the laws. We have to address the stigma and give opportunities for women to work safely who are on the lower level of the sex worker hierarchy, like those who are addicts," she said. "The reality is, we can change the laws, but if we don't change the stigma, what's the point?"

What's worse, she said, is that pop culture promotes the negative view of sex workers and even legitimizes violence towards them. Her case in point is the Grand Theft Auto video games, which rewards players for beating up, robbing and killing prostitutes.

"There's a video game out there where you can run down prostitutes and kill them and beat them up and take their money. It feeds into the whole subculture of allowing the violence to continue," she said. "Violence against sex workers should not be normalized, but it is."

As for what Cornish thinks needs to be done so that no one has to go through the pain and suffering she struggles with daily, it might be a matter of making people listen.
"Maybe we should start marching in the street, but I'm 65 years old and I can't fight this any more. But somebody's got to do it," she said.

For Kuzyk, one of the most important things that has to happen is that people stop blaming the victim, though she says that is changing -- albeit very slowly.

"Twenty years ago, they said we asked for it. Ten years ago, they said, 'What do you expect?'
Now they say it's a dangerous profession, but it's still blaming the victim," she said. "They might not change in our lifetime, but at least it's heading in the right direction. It's unfortunate that it came at a price ... When you add up all the missing and murdered sex workers across Canada, we're talking a couple hundred.

"We shouldn't have to change how we live in order to protect ourselves from violent men.
Violent men should be the ones who are held accountable for what they do.

"But it's because it's sex and people get all squeamish."

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 15

A Chilling Trend Spreads Among Our Neighbours

Not in Anybody's Backyard movement branches out to wherever cities want to put addiction treatment centres

Daphne Bramham
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, December 15, 2007

There is something chilling in the idea behind the group called Not in Anybody's Backyard, which has spawned a chapter in Richmond to oppose an addiction treatment centre.

If the NIABYs are serious about not allowing treatment facilities in anyone's backyard, what's their plan for all of the broken people who desperately want to return to something approaching normal? Let them die in the streets? Drop them in the ocean with a heavy anchor and then go home to a good, old-fashioned family dinner?

The idea that addicts aren't worthy of treatment seems particularly perverse this week after we've all read or heard what the relatives of Robert Pickton's six murder victims had to say about their loved ones. I can't help but see those dead women's faces and hear the voices lamenting their deaths when I think of the devastation that masquerades as a neighbourhood in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Most of the more than 50 women police acknowledge are "missing" from there were addicts. Many were mothers, all were daughters. Many could not escape the horrors of addiction because when they wanted treatment there was no bed available. The lack of treatment facilities is the gravest failing of Vancouver's much-vaunted four pillars plan.

It's important to realize that most of the missing women aren't from Vancouver. Like most of the people who wash up in the Downtown Eastside, that's only where they last lived. They come from all over.

There was such an acute shortage of treatment in Richmond in 2004 that the city's substance abuse committee report said Richmond residents were "regularly" sent to treatment services in Vancouver where "they are frequently thrust into the harsher and more hostile environment of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside."

Today, Richmond has only nine treatment beds and they're only for men. Turning Point Society, which has been in the recovery business for 25 years and claims a 75-per-cent success rate, runs the facility. In all of its years of operation, it has never had a complaint about traffic, attracting drug dealers or increasing the crime rate.

Which brings us back to Richmond's 11,000 NIABYs who have signed a petition opposing Turning Point's application to build a treatment facility for 32 people. The plan includes two houses -- one for up to 10 men, the other for up to 10 women in a structured, support and recovery program. Behind them, Turning Point plans to build 11 suites, which would provide affordable housing mainly for women with children and infants, who have graduated from the structured program.

The centre is in a residential area. But the site is zoned institutional and, up until recently, there was a group home there for troubled teens.

According to Richmond's own statistics, there are 130 Richmond residents on a waiting list for detox and rehabilitation. So, despite what the NIABYs are saying, far from busing recovering addicts in from Vancouver, the flow has been and continues to go the other way.

Perhaps the NIABYs ought to change their name to Not in Anybody's Backyard Unless They Live in Vancouver. Or, maybe Keremeos because its vice-chair Ernie Mendoza wrote favourably to Richmond council about a planned 42-bed facility in a "remote area" in Keremeos, noting that, "Confinement and isolation are positive factors in making sure its residents submit themselves to treatment."

If you want to know more about what NIABY-Richmond (ironically, it's also goes by the name Caring Citizens of Richmond) has to say, it's got a video on YouTube (

watch?v=2uF-89z2Eek=related) and a website (

They say the same stuff about bringing chaos to the neighbourhood, drug dealers, more traffic and crime that NIABYs said before the Triage Emergency Service and Care Society opened a similar-sized facility on Fraser Street at 41st Avenue. (Since Triage opened in August, neighbours report that things are going fine.)

It's what the NIABYs are saying about a proposed recovery house at Dunbar and 16th on the sacred ground of Vancouver's west side.

It's what Coquitlam's NIABY mayor and council are saying about plans to put housing for the disabled, mentally ill and developmentally disabled in the Riverview land, which -- hello -- the province bought in 1904 to house the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

Many NIABY supporters in Richmond are Chinese, as the majority of Richmond residents are Chinese. But that brings us to the ugliest underbelly of the Richmond NIABYs.

Anyone who disagrees with them is apt to be labelled a racist even though SUCCESS, one of the most influential Chinese organizations in the Lower Mainland, was a member of the committee that urged more addiction treatment services.

Still, any whiff of the R-word and people run for cover. Anybody who needed a reminder of the power of ethnic politics got one when more than 1,000 people -- mainly Indo-Canadian -- blocked the deportation of Laibar Singh and vowed never again to vote Conservative.

Municipal elections are less than a year away, a federal election could be any day soon, and the next provincial election is May 17, 2009.

But this is the time for leadership and education. Politicians and aspiring ones would do well to heed the words of Ontario human rights commissioner Barbara Hall, who recently wrote a response to NIABYs in her province:

"Efforts to keep out persons with disabilities, including mental illness, are no less offensive than preventing racialized persons from moving into a neighbourhood."

Addiction isn't a crime. It isn't something people choose. It is a debilitating illness that affects people at all levels of every society and costs us all dearly.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

So many victims

Across the country, the bodies of 67 women have surfaced, dumped in remote areas. In all but five cases, their killers remain unknown

Zosia Bielski, National Post
Published: Saturday, December 15, 2007

More than a decade ago, Cara King went missing in Edmonton. The impulsive 22-yearold "liked to live on the edge," her mother, Kathy, remembered last month, and "struggled with many, many things." In her teens, she lost interest in school and got involved with a social circle of older men, eventually getting addicted to cocaine. Sometimes, the drug caused psychosis, which landed Ms. King in and out of psychiatric hospitals. By the time of her disappearance in 1997, she had dropped regular contact with her middle-class family and was on the street, prostituting herself.

When Ms. King's mother reported her missing that August and then attempted to follow up, she says police gave her the runaround, until one day an officer told her she should "wait for a body."

Three weeks later, Cara King's corpse was found in a canola field. Today, the case remains unsolved.

Disturbingly, elements of Ms. King's story are playing out in scores of cases across the country as young women continue disappearing, their bodies dumped in remote back country, farmers' fields, industrial lots and along desolate stretches of highway.

Until the spectre of Robert Pickton, their stories went largely unnoticed by the Canadian public. In many instances, the womens' families have been their only campaigners. Until recently, their cases were also mostly ignored by police and treated as unrelated, unsolved homicides.

Across the country, 67 bodies have surfaced. In all but five cases, their killers remain unknown. In British Columbia, 37 women other than those connected to the Pickton investigation remain missing, although families say that number is closer to 80, with women vanishing mostly from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the notorious Highway of Tears in the north of the province. In Edmonton, 31 women remain unaccounted for, with some cases dating back to the 1930s. In St. Catharines, the deaths of six prostitutes are the focus of a Niagara Regional Police task force. Since 1996, their bodies have turned up in ditches in Vineland and Welland, a school parking lot and the brush in Niagara Falls. Two men have been charged with three of their murders, but three cases remain unsolved.

In all of the cases, police face staggering challenges: huge and often remote search areas, decades worth of victims, many of them leading precarious lives.

"We face a lot of the same challenges as they did in the Pickton case. These victims, it's part of their lifestyle to get into vehicles with strangers at odd hours of the night and to do it away from others seeing it," said RCMP Constable Tamara Bellamy, who is part of Project Kare, a joint task force in Edmonton looking into unsolved murders and cases of "high-risk" missing persons.

"These are women who are addicted or involved in the drug world. It compromises their ability to help us with timelines. That's a real difficulty for us, trying to find witnesses who are able to tell us the last time someone was seen and who they were seen with."

In northern British Columbia, the bodies of 14 women have turned up since 1969 along the Highway of Tears, an isolated 724-kilo-metre stretch of Yellowhead Highway 16 West running between Prince George and Prince Rupert. Some of the women were prostitutes; nearly all were Aboriginal and hitchhiking. They include 26-year-old tree-planter Nicole Hoar and Tamara Chipman, 22, another hitchhiker whose father, Tom Chipman, walked the highway for months, looking in culverts for his daughter.

In Winnipeg, the bodies of 19 prostitutes -- 17 women and two transgendered men -- have turned up north and west of the city in the past 25 years.

The number is escalating: Three women have been murdered since April, the last being Fonessa Lynn Bruyere, 17, whose body was found in a field in August. In Edmonton, the bodies of 23 women have been found in hotel rooms, industrial areas, farmers' fields and along rural roads since 1983.

Last May, RCMP charged Thomas Svekla with murdering Theresa Innes, a 36-year-old prostitute found stuffed in a hockey bag. Earlier this year, Mr. Svekla was also charged in the
death of a second prostitute, 19-year-old Rachel Quinney.

As in other similar investigations, Edmonton police deny that a serial killer is at work, arguing that assumption would jeopardize their work.

In British Columbia this October, RCMP doubled the number of files being probed from nine to 18, and expanded the investigation as far back as 1969 and as far south as Merritt and Kamloops. The investigation consists of 43 officers culled from several units.

"We didn't do a great job talking to our communities and to the victims' families way back when. In the last few years, we've picked up our socks on that," said RCMP Staff Sgt. John Ward.
But aboriginal groups and some family members have criticized the investigation, specifically its expansion beyond the Highway of Tears just as it excludes some 40 missing women they believe vanished along the route. Police are also battling local rumours that a serial killer is prowling the stretch.

In Winnipeg, too, some experts say "a cluster dump" in a field outside the city likely points to a serial killer. In July, the body of 36-yearold Aynsley Kinch was found on the outskirts of Winnipeg. One month later, the most recent victim, Ms. Bruyere, was found a short distance east. Her body lay metres from the spot where Therena Silva's remains were found almost five years earlier.

The field is likely a place where a serial killer feels comfortable discarding victims' bodies, says Kim Rossmo. The former Vancouver police officer warned a serial killer might be stalking prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside, but had his theory dismissed by authorities. Now a professor in the department of criminal justice at Texas State University, Mr. Rossmo says a lack of resources and experience are often behind the categorical resistance of police to label any of the cases as the work of a serial killer.

"I think one of the issues is that it creates the expectation of a certain investigative process. Some agencies don't want to deal with that. If you have a serial murder case, you have to investigate it. That can mean a pretty big demand on limited resources," Mr. Rossmo said.

Along the Highway of Tears, it appears most efforts now focus on preventing new victims.
Working with the RCMP and victims' families, First Nations consultant Don Sabo prepared a list of recommendations to stop abductions along the notorious belt. Last March, his report was presented in Prince George at the highly publicized Highway of Tears symposium, which saw victims' families tearfully demanding answers from the province.

His first recommendation is a shuttle bus service that might reduce the need for hitchhiking.
Currently, the only public transportation between Prince George and Prince Rupert is a daily Greyhound bus. Isolated on reserves, local women often hitchhike into town for basic services, from groceries to doctors' appointments. Few have drivers' licences and fewer still have cars.

"The reason why there are so many young aborginal women going missing is poverty and geography. These reserves have little or no infrastructure. Poverty is the big thing for young women being on the highway," Mr. Sabo said.

Today, Cara King's mother heads the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation of Edmonton, which helps local women get out of the sex trade. The offices sit on a drug-infested stretch of 118th Avenue, "the stroll" from which many prostitutes in Edmonton have been disappearing.

She concedes that, "people who are legitimately high-risk are taken seriously now when they're missing," in Edmonton, but she remains bitter watching the Pickton case as her daughter's murder remains unsolved.

"All of a sudden, there's millions of dollars to sift six feet of topsoil at the Pickton farm and there's no money for basic services that are going to prevent that carnage," Ms. King said. "We're fighting an uphill battle."

© 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Project KARE
The Pickton Case
Missing People Net - Vancouver missing women
RCMP step up investigation into 18 dead or missing women along Highway 16
Where have my sisters gone
Highway of Tears
Vanished Voices

Families of Pickton's victims want public inquiry into police handling of case

Canadian Press
December 15, 2007

VANCOUVER - Long before the discovery of severed heads, hands and feet at a suburban pig farm, there were the pleas of family members about their missing loved ones - mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts who'd disappeared without a trace.

One by one, the women who'd spent much of their time in the drug ghetto of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside seemed to vanish, some after paying their rent and leaving savings in bank accounts.

As the list of missing women grew, so did complaints about police by desperate relatives who say their concerns fell on deaf ears because the women were drug-addicted prostitutes.

Now, after serial killer Robert Pickton has been found guilty of murdering six women, families say a public inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of why the Vancouver Police Department waited so long to launch an investigation.

Pickton was convicted Dec. 9 on six counts of second-degree murder after a 10-month jury trial and sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Hearings leading into a second trial begin next month on another 20 murder counts.

Sarah de Vries, who was last seen on April 13, 1998, is among those 20 other women Pickton is charged with killing.

Maggie de Vries, Sarah's sister, said police were getting tips about women going off to Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farm as far back as 1997.

It wasn't until the spring 2001 that a joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force took over the file that the missing women's case appeared to move forward.

Less than a year later, on Feb. 22, 2002, the first charges were laid against Pickton.

That's when archeological experts and the Missing Women's Joint Task Force - led by the Mounties - began scouring his 4.5-hectare property for clues.

"I want to know why so many women had died before they (police) got onto that property," de Vries said.

"I was there at the beginning, pressing for the investigation to be taken more seriously and I saw the resistance to that by the police in early 1999. There was no willingness to admit to the possibility of crimes, let alone murder, let alone serial murder."

Former Vancouver police officer Kim Rossmo, now a research professor in the criminal justice department at Texas State University, warned officials in his department in May 1999 that a serial killer may be at work.

But in June 1999, the force was still saying publicly that the women could be living elsewhere.
"We don't have anything that indicates that in fact there have been 20-plus homicides," spokeswoman Const. Anne Drennan said at the time.

Rossmo, who developed geographic profiling as a crime-fighting tool now used by police forces around the world, said an inquiry is needed but shouldn't serve as a soap box for bashing police.
Rather, it should ensure that the necessary systems are in place so a tragedy on such a massive scale never happens again, he said.

"It's something where you actually would have wished to be wrong," he said about his serial-killer theory. "It would be better if I was wrong and they were right and the women were found alive.

"The general attitude of Major Crime was, 'Well, we don't have any bodies so what can we do?'
I've argued that's akin to a fire department saying, 'We see smoke and no fire so we're not going to do anything.' "

Rossmo said police in all jurisdictions need to look at how they respond to missing persons cases, including on the so-called Highway of Tears - along the western stretch of Highway 16 across northern British Columbia.

In October, the RCMP announced the investigation of missing and murdered women in the area had grown to 18 victims from nine.

Police in Edmonton also revamped their approach to a string of unsolved prostitute murders over several years after stinging criticism.

Former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen, then the head of the city's police board, defended his officers and criticized Rossmo, who lost a wrongful dismissal suit against then deputy police chief John Unger and the police board.

"It's absolutely unjustified," Owen said of the criticism the force has faced.

"The (Vancouver police department) moved on this very early and was very serious and was concerned about it and did a lot of things. They're taking a bum rap and it bothers me."

Rossmo disputed Owen's remarks.

"The bottom line is we have 26 confirmed deaths by DNA," Rossmo said. "Does he really think that was a system that was working?

"There's at least 10 of those murders confirmed by DNA that occurred after Pickton was known to be a hot suspect. I'd like to know what he considered bad policing if he thinks that was OK."

Much of the criticism was crystallized 2002 in outrage directed at Vancouver Det. Scott Driemel. The spokesman for the missing women task force, told an off-colour joke about a prostitute to some officers and reportedly quipped to a journalist that the women in the Downtown Eastside are so "ugly, they can't get a date."

Driemel claimed his comment was taken out of context but some of the missing women's families remember it as an example of the attitude that permeated much of the department.

Deputy Chief Doug LePard said the force has tried to build better relationships with Downtown Eastside residents, including hiring a former police officer in 2003 as a liaison between the department and sex-trade workers.

LePard has conducted an internal review of the missing women's case and wrote a comprehensive 449-page report that includes several recommendations, some of which have already been enacted.

"It was essentially a management review of what occurred in the Vancouver police department," he said.

The report considers events from the mid-1990s, when women in the Downtown Eastside began disappearing, to February 2002, when police executed search warrants on Pickton's property that led to his arrest.

LePard said he couldn't discuss the report pending an appeal of Pickton's verdict, a possible second trial or a public inquiry.

The B.C. government would decide if an inquiry should proceed after a request to cabinet by the Attorney General's Ministry.

Attorney General Wally Oppal would not make such a request before a decision on whether Pickton will face another trial, said spokesman Shawn Robins.

Sue Davis, a co-ordinator with Prostitution Awareness Counselling and Education, said she's not so sure a costly public inquiry is necessary.

"It's just going to give a bunch of money to people to sit around and talk about us, not to us," Davis said.

Sex workers need a safe place to take customers so they don't have to drift out of the Downtown Eastside to places such as Pickton's pig farm, where they may become vulnerable prey, she said.

"If they had somewhere to take him (Pickton) they wouldn't have been on the farm," Davis said.

Marilyn Kraft, whose daughter Cynthia Feliks was last seen alive in 1997, is one of Pickton's alleged victims in the second indictment.

Kraft said she wants an inquiry into police inaction for the sake of her daughter, who left behind a daughter of her own and would have had her 53rd birthday this week.

Like the other families of missing and murdered women, Kraft is seeking answers to why police didn't take the disappearances seriously when there was an obvious pattern early on.

"If the police had done their job in the first place I'm sure that Mr. Pickton would not have killed as many women or been allowed to because people told the police many times about him, about the pig farm, and they didn't act on it," said Kraft.

"The usual response they gave to a lot of the parents when they reported their children missing was: 'She's around, she went on a holiday.'

"Of course, these girls never went on holidays."

Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Pickton tape given to police in 1998
Cop warned bosses about potential serial killer in ‘99
Police told about farm many times
Mines client provides early information in Missing Women Case

Robert Pickton book information

Robert Pickton book information, "Murder at Piggy’s Palace: The Bizarre Serial Murder Case of Robert “Willie” Pickton":

DECEMBER 13, 2007

Peter Miller, President of PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. is pleased to announce the placement of Gary C. King's latest true crime book project, tentatively titled Murder at Piggy’s Palace: The Bizarre Serial Murder Case of Robert “Willie” Pickton, to Michaela Hamilton at Kensington Publishing Corp.

The case of the missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, long known as the poorest neighborhood in the city, began as all such cases do: with no one noticing and no one caring. Although the case may have actually begun in September 1978 with the disappearance of Lillian Jean O’Dare, it would be several years into the future before an investigation would be launched by the police and the case made official. Early on the police seemed to have ignored the concerns voiced by loved ones of the missing women, some say for as long as 20 years, because of their particular lifestyle. Most of the victims were either prostitutes or drug addicts and, in many instances, both. But they were human beings—someone’s mother, daughter, sister or granddaughter—and someone, if not the police, cared that they had vanished. At first, when the police finally began to see that an erratic pattern was emerging, they were simply baffled, in part because they had no crime scene with which to work and no suspect to investigate. Because of the initial lack of clues, the police hadn’t even believed that any crimes had been committed for them to investigate. By the time the massive case finally broke in February 2002, homicide investigators suddenly realized that they were dealing with one of the worst serial murder cases in history.

This compelling and fascinating story is centered around Robert William “Willie” Pickton, 52 years old when the case broke, an evil and depraved sex killer who made his living as a pig farmer and how he, along with a relative, had run a registered charity known as the Piggy Palace Good Times Society. But, as the police would learn, the Piggy Palace wasn’t a charity at all. While it is true that local politicians, business people and others attended fundraising events there, Pickton also used the "palace" for far more sinister deeds. Located in a separate building on Pickton’s pig farm, it was also a place where the most depraved acts of hellish "entertainment" occurred on a somewhat regular basis in which the “stars” of the show did not return for an encore performance. After Pickton was finished with a victim, each would be killed in a variety of ways and their bodies fed to Pickton’s pigs. By the time the police had formed a task force to try and catch the serial killer whose acts and numbers had already easily exceeded those of many of his Pacific Northwest predecessors, 31 women would have vanished. By the time Pickton was stopped, it is believed that he was responsible for the disappearances and subsequent deaths of 49 women and, by his own admission, had been planning on an even 50.

Gary C. King, a freelance author and lecturer, is regarded by readers and critics alike as one of the world's foremost crime writers, a reputation he has earned over the last 28 years with the publication of 11 books and more than 400 articles in true crime magazines in the United States, Canada, and England. King's true crime books and articles are hard-hitting and factual, key elements of a style that his readers tend to appreciate. He is the author of Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer, Driven to Kill, Web of Deceit, Blind Rage, Savage Vengeance, An Early Grave, The Texas 7, Murder in Hollywood, Angels of Death, Stolen in the Night, and Love, Lies, and Murder. King’s latest book, An Almost Perfect Murder, will be published by Kensington under their Pinnacle imprint in September 2008.

For more information, contact Peter Miller, PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. at 212.929.1222 or

The True Crime Website of Author Gary C. King